First Draft Excerpt from A New Embassy (Number Four)

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For tolerably obvious reasons, our Morelli guests were kept confined in a special area of the ship; not really a jail or whatever they called a jail onboard a ship. Just spare crew quarters, modified for their use. Since I was their liason, I was summoned to the fabrication shop to hear the explanation of the shelter they planned for Motafo to prevent his death in the likely event his Council ordered him to be bombed. The set up the engineers came up with to protect Motafo was simple enough. They built a small bondsteel shelter and gave it a hull-charging unit. A battery, a life support system, and Motafo's own suit radio completed the setup. "They said they'd pick him up in a local day. Plenty of power to keep everything running for two, probably three days. Plug here, adapted to his suit's charger to keep him topped off. He'll get knocked around if they bomb him, but he should come through it just fine. Flip this switch as soon as he's sealed, use this wire to connect to his suit antenna. We recharged his suit, in case he needs the air and power in it. Tell him he might want to disconnect power and the antenna from his suit if he has warning of a bomb - It might transmit an electromagnetic pulse if connected. The whole thing will self-destruct when power gets to one iprime, in case they do actually pick him up."

"You're not worried about them figuring out the tech?"

"Amn, the only thing they might figure out that they don't have now is the hull-charge unit. Even if they do somehow keep it intact, the only thing they might learn to use it for is hull charge." "Amn" meant 'someone of higher rank not in the chain of command.' I doubted that I ranked the engineer in any way; he wore the gold disc of a Section Private while I was a civilian specialist. Doubtless he was just being polite.

"Not the capacitor?"

"Amn, that's the one thing it's impossible to disconnect from the power supply and self-destruct."

Point taken. I knew I was no engineer; I'd only been exposed to Imperial tech at a distance myself. I hadn't even saved up enough for my own converter. At home, I still cooked all my own meals. If I lived to be a thousand, I'd never sample half the food and drink recipes available in Hamthar Four's public database. That said, I was already missing my Diet Dr. Pepper; maybe I'd figure out how to buy that recipe for my personal use. "Thank you. Motafo may be an alien, but he doesn't deserve to die because his leaders are a bunch of useless leeches."

"We all feel sorry for him. The situation isn't of his making, he's simply a convenient scapegoat."

We didn't have long to wait after that. The Morelli had responded to Sergeant Mitrisa's request for routing by telling her basically, 'Get there as fast as you can.' Ambassador DeelKonosh said showing off our capability would be a good thing, so Mitrisa put us stationary at an altitude of two isquare in a single Vector. From there, we could have landed in a little over a minute if she'd wanted to risk high-power maneuvering during a landing, but instead she hovered in place while she had the shelter loaded in the cargo bay of a cutter for transport. A second cutter was tasked with bringing Motafo (and incidentally me and two escorts) to the surface.

I'd worn an Imperial survival suit before. It was basically a skin-tight mesh with a layer of stretchy padded material next to the skin, and a metallized exterior layer. Small backpack with a siphon, converter, and air reservoir for eight or ten minutes, radio,and a glassteel helmet completed the ensemble. The siphon provided power, the converter kept the air reservoir full. If either the siphon or converter failed, you had until the air reservoir ran out to find a supply, but it generally wasn't much of an issue in the situations where you wore one. A cheap solution for the problem of going into zero pressure in a controlled situation; only the plumbing was uncomfortable.

It occurred to me to ask, "What if I fart?"

Private Mosser answered, "Assuming it leaks up to the helmet somehow, hold your breath until the converter clears it out. Twenty seconds will handle the worst of it. You're lucky; it takes longer for one of these." The two of them were wearing Planetary Surface combat armor. He was a big guy anyway, about 190 centimeters Earth measure, broad shouldered and heavy built. Even Private Justila, twenty-five centimeters shorter out of armor, loomed over me like an ogre. Combat armor really only added about fifteen centimeters of height, but the suits were so bulky it seemed like more.

"Must be tough if you're in a combat situation, and your eyes are watering."

"That's part of what datalinks are for," Justila responded, "Helping you target and keep track of threats you might not be able to see."

Motafo's eyes were enlarged. "I must say, you sound like you have experience."

After I translated, Justila responded, "Yeah, been there, done that. Ripped one in the middle..."

Mosser interrupted her, "Let's not burden him with too much information. The plumbing handles solid and liquid well, but gas sometimes leaks. Leave it at that."

"Better than what we Morelli have," Motafo remarked, "The only thing to clear our suit environment is our own lungs."

Must be rough - especially as the Morelli ate more vegetable matter than humans. Still, I understood what Earth's primitive astronauts contended with before the Empire found us had been essentially similar.

It took Mosser and Justila about thirty seconds after we landed to haul the shelter out of the other cutter and set it down on the desolate, airless surface of the Morelli's outer moon. It was emplaced even before the cutter that had carried it down from Hamthar Four departed soundlessly. The shelter still had plenty of mass, but the gravity here was so light I had trouble walking. The two military people, however, had training in light gravity. I picked my way over to the shelter and explained to Motafo what the engineer had told me a half-hour previous. There was barely enough room inside for the two of us in our suits. "No sensors, but my understanding is we'll be keeping you updated by radio." Fortunately, Morelli were a burrowing species - claustrophobia was not one of their problems.

"So I wait and hope."

"And unplug yourself if we warn you of a bomb. We don't know what damage an electromagnetic pulse might do to your suit or radio, but inside the shelter and without direct connection, you should be well-shielded."


"I hope that your Community welcomes you back. If we do not see each other again, I wish you well, Motafo of the Morelli."

"And I you, Tessa of the Empire."

I shimmied backwards out of the shelter, and Mosser closed the hatch. There was no air to transmit the sound, but Motafo should be getting an indicator he was sealed. I started picking my way back to the cutter we'd arrived in.

"Good day to my friends of the Empire," I heard Motafo say, as I reached the ship, "I have activated the life support unit and tested its product. I should be comfortable until the arrival of the Community vessel."

"Good to know," I replied. I entered the human-sized personnel hatch and it closed behind me.

What the hell? I sent to the pilot via datalink, Mosser and Justila are still outside!

Relax, they're staying to play nursemaid, just in case.

I heard nothing of this part of the plan!

Because what you don't know, you can't spill , Mosser himself sent. Don't worry, Hamthar Four has moved to stationary orbit overhead. Even if we have to haul the alien along with us, our suits can make it in ten minutes or less.

How come you're not wearing Guardian insignia?

Because I haven't earned it yet. But auros, which includes telepathy, is the first of the disciplines operants learn.

What if they bomb you?

Combat suits are plenty to protect us from primitive atomic weapons. We'll be fine.

Which was about the time I felt the cutter dock. Imperial ships could move if they had reason, but I hadn't felt any flutter in the onboard gravity. So far I never had, but for some reason I kept expecting to. The personnel hatch opened again, followed by the door to the control cabin. A dark-haired, olive-skinned woman I didn't know exited, gesturing to me to precede her out the door. I popped my helmet, still feeling outraged, "Why didn't you tell me?" I demanded of her in Traditional.

"Because the Ambassador said not to," she replied, as if it were as simple as that. When I stood there dumbfounded, she shrugged and passed by me, unconcerned.

Copyright 2023 Dan Melson. All RIghts Reserved.

Excerpt One is here

Excerpt Two is here

Excerpt Three is here

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on November 20, 2023 7:00 AM.

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